I have never been to Israel or Palestine. One day I would like to meet people who live side by side there. Look into their eyes. See where they live. How they live. Greet their children. Touch the walls of their homes. Walk the path they take to get to work or school. Share a meal with them. Maybe share a poem or two. They can tell me how I got the details wrong, laugh with them at my mistakes. One day.
I began this blog when I had nowhere to express what I felt upon seeing photographs of what was happening in Gaza. That was many years ago. Many things have changed with my little blog, with my own life and the rest of the world. But Gaza remains in darkness.
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to read at this year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival. The organizers (thank you, Aerodrome’s Alexander Matthews!) have lined up an interesting set of poets. I’m still not sure what poems to read. Any chance to face an audience and gauge their reaction to your work is always an interesting experience.
I’m also going to use the event to reconnect with the friends I made during the awarding of the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award a few months back.
Tomorrow is also the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba. I feel I must read something to mark the day. And then there’s xenophobia. I wonder if there’ll be time to read something else, something about Lego and millipedes and SpongeBob. We’ll see. First I will have to negotiate traffic and wet, cold weather. Wish me luck.
After seeing Jon Snow’s “Unseen Gaza,” many years ago, I wrote a poem called “Rent a Horror Movie.” It is full of rage, but one that is like a fist in the dark. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE POEM.
The following is taken from the BDS Movement.
Gaza Calling: All out on Saturday 9 August Day of Rage
Join the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement today. Demand Sanctions on Israel Now.
As we face the full might of Israel’s military arsenal, funded and supplied by the United States and European Union, we call on civil society and people of conscience throughout the world to pressure governments to sanction Israel and implement a comprehensive arms embargo immediately.
Take to the streets on Saturday 9 August with a united demand for sanctions on Israel.
From Gaza under invasion, bombardment, and continuing siege, the horror is beyond words. Medical supplies are exhausted. The death toll has reached 1813 killed (398 children, 207 women, 74 elderly) and 9370 injured (2744 children, 1750 women, 343 elderly). Our hospitals, ambulances, and medical staff are all under attack while on duty. Doctors and paramedics are being killed while evacuating the dead. Our dead are not numbers and statistics to be recounted; they are loved ones, family and friends.
While we have to survive this onslaught, you certainly have the power to help end it the same way you helped overcome Apartheid and other crimes against humanity. Israel is only able to carry out this attack with the unwavering support of governments – this support must end.
This is our third massacre in six years. When not being slaughtered, we remain under siege, an illegal collective punishment of the entire population. Fishermen are shot and killed if they stray beyond a 3 km limit imposed unilaterally by Israel. Farmers are shot harvesting their crops within a border area imposed unilaterally by Israel. Gaza has become the largest open-air prison, a concentration camp since 2006. This time, we want an end to this unprecedented crime against humanity committed with the complicity and support of your own governments!
We are not asking for charity. We are demanding solidarity, because we know that until Israel is isolated and sanctioned, these horrors will be repeated.
Three poems from Sound Before Water have been posted on Dead Snakes. Please click THIS LINK to read them. Posting a comment (or three) will help encourage the editors to keep up their good work.
Thank you, Stephen, for making room for my work.
Just as the World Cup was underway, Israel begins to bomb Gaza for… what again?
Now that World Cup fever has died down (pun intended), an airline is shot and who’s quickly blamed?
Yeah, it sounds far fetched, like some weird conspiracy movie… well, weirder things have happened. It could also be compared to a performance on a stage with a bunny and a top hat.
Don’t mind me. I’m not running from missiles and drones, I’m not looking for missing members of my family in the few seconds when the air clears a little for me to see my own footsteps amid the rubble and mayhem.
I’m far away and screaming my lungs out in anger at this madness.
The following was written and translated in January 2009, during Israel’s blockbuster movie, OPERATION CAST LEAD.
Ang Aso at ang Amo
Maigting na kumpas lang ng kamay ng amo
kakaripas agad ang aso, sintalas ng patalim
kung humiwa sa hangin ang nguso
Ilang ulit nang ganito itinuro
kung sino ang dapat tugisin,
panindigin ang balahibo.
Napakagaling ng kanilang konsiyerto
ng karahasan, sa wakas, pinakabahagyang
kibot ng kilay ng amo, mabilis pa sa bala
pumapaslang na ang aso.
Israel, alin ikaw?
The Dog and Its Master
With a firm wave of the master’s hand
the dog sets off, sharp as a dagger
its nose cuts the wind.
Over and over, this lesson is taught
the dog quickly learns
whom it must seek, sending hairs on end.
They conduct this concert of violence
with such precision, in the end, with the slightest
twitch of the master’s brow, the dog
flies swifter than a bullet, finishing off a prey.
Israel, which are you?
I have some great news, actually. But I’ll have to write about that later. This bit of troubling video with the proper accompanying article has to be shared first.
I am writing today to express grave concern about a wave of legislative measures in the United States aimed at punishing and intimidating those who speak their conscience and challenge the human rights violations endured by the Palestinian people. In legislatures in Maryland, New York, Illinois, Florida, and even the United States Congress, bills have been proposed that would either bar funding to academic associations or seek to malign those who have taken a stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
These legislative efforts are in response to a growing international initiative, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, of which I have long been a supporter. The BDS movement emanates from a call for justice put out by the Palestinian people themselves. It is a Palestinian-led, international nonviolent movement that seeks to force the Israeli government to comply with international law in respect to its treatment of the Palestinian people.
I have supported this movement because it exerts pressure without violence on the State of Israel to create lasting peace for the citizens of Israel and Palestine, peace which most citizens crave. I have witnessed the systematic violence against and humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation and pain is all too familiar to us South Africans.
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. My conscience compels me to stand with the Palestinians as they seek to use the same tactics of non-violence to further their efforts to end the oppression associated with the Israeli occupation.
I am also deeply troubled by the rhetoric associated with the promulgation of these bills which I understand, in the instance of Maryland, included testimony comparing the boycott to the actions of the Nazis in Germany. The Nazi Holocaust which resulted in the extermination of millions of Jews is a crime of monstrous proportions. To imply that it is in any way comparable to a nonviolent initiative diminishes the horrific nature of that genocidal and tragic era in our world history.
Whether used in South Africa, the US South, or India, boycotts have resulted in a transformative change that not only brought freedom and justice to the victims but also peace and reconciliation for the oppressors. I strongly oppose any piece of legislation meant to punish or deter individuals from pursuing this transformative aspiration. And I remain forever hopeful that, like the nonviolent efforts that have preceded it, the BDS movement will ultimately become a catalyst for honest peace and reconciliation for all our brothers and sisters, both Palestinian and Israeli, in the Holy Land.
Please help us spread this.
My poem “If Palestine were a Treasured Painting” has been included in the second issue of Rusted Radishes! I need a working teleporter to attend the launch in the next few days. 🙂
I submitted the poem a long time ago. Their fantastic editors suggested some changes which I gladly accepted. And finally it’s out there!